living in community

A Lesson In Sacred Community (final in series)

For the final article of our community series, we decided to work together to try to dig a little deeper and expose some of the hindrances we have to finding community for ourselves. We can probably all agree that we enjoy the benefits of community when it is done well and we are known and loved and can mutually share in life and all of the highs and lows that it entails. It’s just “the getting” to that point with people that makes it hard and sometimes intimidating to get started. Sometimes, then the conclusion is that it isn’t really worth the work, or the heartache or the energy especially considering the uncertainty. So, we posed the question, “Why should intentionally living in community with others matter?” to uncover some of those stumbling blocks. We also decided to answer the question based on one major personality identity box that most of us can place ourselves in-the introvert and the extrovert.

So, why should intentionally living in community with others matter to the introvert and to the extrovert?  Why should it matter to any of us? We believe intentional community matters because it matters to God.  He desires for us to be vulnerable and in community with one another.  Seeking ways to love and serve others that may take us outside of our comfort zones.  This is not always an easy thing…right?  I mean it involves people, and relating to people can be hard, especially when we don’t understand them or they operate differently than we do.  

I suppose I will speak as the resident introvert since of the 2 of us, that label much more closely describes me (Amanda). I remember taking a personality test in college that concluded about me, (at that time anyway), that I was “an introvert, who functions as an extrovert”.  I remember feeling proud that I had confused the system.  To be honest I don’t like being labeled or to be put in “a box”…I actually like when I take the same personality test and can get a different answer than one I have gotten before. However, I have to say, that I have found the value of being known for who I am and understood more fully.  It has allowed me to know myself and in turn have a better understanding of my own needs and even being able to relate to others more confidently.  It has also given me the gift of embracing who I am, what I am gifted at, what ways I do relate well to others, and encouraging me to pursue people and relationships in and through my giftedness.   

For example I may not be as comfortable giving an impromptu toast to a friend at her large birthday celebration, but given some forethought and a note card I will do my best to use my words to make that person feel loved and special.  I may not want to go out to the big party on New Year’s eve, but I would be so happy to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about life.  Pursuing people from my perspective may look different, however, I am noticing and listening.  I can usually see the little nuances and familiar tells that let me know where a person is at and I can use that to show that person I care about what they are going through. I can write a note to encourage, or send a package with a small gift that communicates that you are important to me.  I can choose to be there in the hard moments of life, and maybe not say anything, not just because I prefer quiet, but because sometimes it’s better just to be present. 

 One of things I have come to terms with as an introvert seeking to live intentionally and in community with others, is that pushing myself to be with people and to be known is a healthy and good exercise in my journey. Truth be told, it is often easier for me to live in isolation. I love my alone time, I enjoy peace and quiet, I thrive in a controlled and serene environment. Quite frankly when you throw a person or people into the mix you often don’t have control, or quiet, or peace and definitely not alone time. BUT, I have learned that not only is that okay, it is actually often better for me to push myself into the unknown and discomfort in order to get outside of “me”.  The benefit for me of living in community is living in a less self-focused way and it actually empowers me to be intentional with others through the power of the Holy Spirit.     

When I had the idea to do this article together I suggested we tackle this topic from each of our sides of the introverted(Amanda)/ extroverted (Lily) coin and I simply posed this question to Lily: “Why does intentionally living in community matter to the extrovert?” I was surprised that she struggled, as I did, to flesh out, not only the benefit FOR others but FOR ourselves.   

The extrovert (Lily)- Well, now that we know the other half of life’s mysteries, I suppose I’ll dive into the extroverted side of things. To Amanda’s point about personality tests - I honestly don’t mind the outcome. But I struggle with answering. For example: “What if I pick the wrong thing?”, “Sometimes I feel that way, but not always.” “Yikes, I feel both of those feelings at the same time, how do I answer that question?” Personality tests actually go better for me if someone else takes them for me. So basically, I don’t know if that counts at all, and if I’m really an extrovert. But I feel fairly confident after being married to an introvert thru and thru, I’m for sure not that. I love being around people. Not always large groups - I love depth which often comes in smaller groups. But if we are going out to a festival, convention or restaurant, the more the merrier. I’m known to share too much right off the bat because I feel like we’ve been friends our whole lives and have already decided in my head that we will be friends forevermore. If I am home alone, I turn on the tv to live news channels so I don’t feel alone and feel like I’m experiencing the same day as people on tv, as opposed to say, a sitcom with actors. However :) having been married to the introvert, and most of my closest friends being introverts, I have learned so so much… about myself, about the Lord, about community.

 First, as much as I am energized by people, it is right and good and pleasing to also allow time for rest and being energized by the Lord. Which is so quiet, comparatively. But if I don’t allow time for rejuvenation and processing, I’m essentially using the idea of “community” to fill me up — which is, quite frankly, idolatry.

Another lesson learned in regards to the extrovert + community is that it is an opportunity to seek the Lord and operate by His leading when it comes the gifts of gathering and connecting. My natural inclination is to invite all the people, have all the gatherings, host all the parties, go on all the field trips and write all the hand written notes of affection and encouragement - which can be awesome! But community - and putting others needs and interests above my own (and even my own wiring) - offers the unique privilege and blessing to ask the Lord how others might be blessed and encouraged. Learning to operate in community being led By Him has been an opportunity for me to get outside of myself and look for a way to serve others as the Lord leads, and not just to my preference.

That being said - it is good - and ok - to recognize that your “type” is a gift purposed by God on purpose and for a purpose. Your God-given abilities are intended to share the love of Christ with others in a unique way that only you, by His grace, can do. God has given me a unique desire and delight in creating beauty, whether through meals or cozy spaces - and it is an absolute joy to invite others into that space. I don’t have to be embarrassed by that, but I can be thankful and use those tools as a means of connecting with others. With my natural inclination to gather and invite often comes the opportunity for the pursuit of others, which can sometimes feel draining or not worth it or maybe like it’s too difficult to connect.

However, we have to conclude and we really believe that personality type and how long it seems to be taking in creating that sacred community is never a good reason to not fight for community and inviting other people in. There is a great gift in both the introvert and the extrovert in that when submitted and yielded according to the Spirit, she can be a true and life-giving gift to any personality type. Embracing our own unique wiring and tendencies, is an opportunity to encourage others to find freedom and joy in the life-giving intention God desires in community…regardless of “type.”  Community is worth fighting for no matter what personality box you fit in or claim.  No matter who you are, you have something invaluable to offer to the rest of us.